Experience Radar 51: Paris Gets Its First Immersive Hotel And Metaverse Cities Are On The Rise

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to Experience Radar 51, where we’re sitting on the Queen of Hearts’ throne at a pop-up in New York, stocking up on Stranger Things merch at Netflix’s LA store, and enjoying a spot of slow travel in London.

1. Disney Launches Immersive Live Experiences

Headline and above image; The Grand Magic Hotel, Paris; The Disney Animation Immersive Experience

As reported by Forbes, Disney Animation has partnered with Toronto-based Lighthouse Immersive Studios to launch an immersive live experience built around its iconic back catalogue of films, offering “an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look” at how they were created. The Disney Animation Immersive Experience will debut in December at Lighthouse’s original facility, a former printing press bay for the Toronto Star newspaper. The experience will then be rolled out to 10 US cities in spring 2023, and a further 10 cities later in the year, followed by an international rollout.

Lasting 90 minutes, on entering the venue visitors will don a wristband that triggers various interactive experiences featuring imagery and music from Disney hits like Frozen, Moana, The Lion King, Rapunzel and Encanto, alongside older classics like Fantasia and Snow White. “Any one of these films could have an immersive experience by themselves, but the idea is that we’re going to be able to pull all these experiences into one and down a rabbit hole. You really get to see the hand of the animators,” said Lighthouse’s creative director, David Korins.

2. AR Is Decentralising Entertainment

Marvel World of Heroes, Disney

As AR gadgets become more accessible and brands start to harness the tech to elevate the movie-watching experience with interactive games and add-ons, Wunderman Thompson questions whether AR is decentralising entertainment. Taking a leaf out of Pokémon Go’s playbook, Disney’s new Marvel World of Heroes AR game, due out next year, will incorporate physical settings into the game for players to seek out, with a series of tasks needing to be completed in each location in addition to having to fight off Marvel villains.

Disney released its first eight-minute-long, AR-enabled short film in September called Remembering, produced by and starring Brie Larson, which viewers could scan on their iOS devices to watch an extended version of on their small screens. Meanwhile, moving from the digital world to the physical, NFT art collective Bored Ape Yacht Club launched a scripted reality show called The R3al Metaverse alongside fellow NFT hawkers Doodles, World of Women and Cool Cat where characters from their respective NFT collections find themselves in the real world and fans are given the chance to shape the content and narrative.

3. Metaverse Cities Are On The Rise

Zepeto, Asia

The latest trend to sweep the metaverse is for digital twin cities of real-world metropolises, giving online citizens new civic touchpoints in the metaverse. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, Seongman in South Korea plans to digitally recreate the city for the metaverse next year, which its 1 million citizens will be able to enter with NFT identification tokens, giving them access to civil services, information and events. Seoul, meanwhile, plans to complete its city replica in the metaverse by 2026, while the Portuguese city of Madeira has announced a government-endorsed “digital twin” project called Madalia World and has already started selling 500 plots of digital land in the virtual city.

The UAE is also in on the act – Dubai will become the first virtual city in Metaverse Holdings’ global metaverse rollout, with a beta version due to launch this year. The digital city will replicate real-life events and experiences in digitally realised locations, from shopping malls to universities, with big names including Emirates, Damac Group and healthcare firm Thumbay due to launch virtual roll-outs in the digital city, which aims to create 40,000 new virtual jobs. Proving how seriously it’s taking Web3, the UAE recently announced that the third headquarters for its Ministry of Economy will open its doors in the metaverse.

4. Paris Gets Its First Immersive Hotel

The Grand Magic Hotel, Paris

In keeping with the current trend for all things immersive, Europe’s first immersive hotel has opened in Paris, promising to give its guests the 360-degree hospitality experience. As reported by Sortir a Paris, The Grand Magic Hotel is the brainchild of themed attraction specialist Moment Factory, which was tasked with transforming the Schroders-owned space into something magical and memorable. Guests are taken on an immersive journey that makes use of lighting, sound design and multimedia environments, which begins in the themed lobby.

On arrival at the venue in Seine-et-Marne guests are greeted by the hotel’s host, Monsieur Maurice, who guides visitors through the show-stopping Grand Hall which, through the power of projection mapping, transforms into a series of fantastical universes at night, including a butterfly-filled meadow, enchanted forest glowing with fireflies, underwater world and an ethereal realm beyond the clouds. The rooms within the hotel, which features a swimming pool, gym and nature-inspired restaurant, are themed around the different constellations.

5. Alice In Wonderland Bar Pops Up In NYC

Alice in Wonderland, NYC

The world may not need another Alice in Wonderland-themed experience, but New York is getting one, and it looks like it’s worth checking out. According to Time Out, the Wonderland Dreams immersive experience, masterminded by Catching Flights, takes place in a 26,000-square-foot space in midtown Manhattan boasting 20 themed rooms painted by contemporary artist Alexa Meade. Among the interactive installations is a living art gallery that puts visitors inside the frame, a secret rose garden and the Queen of Hearts’ throne.

If you’re thirsty after all that mind-bending co-creation, head to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party-themed bar for colour-changing cocktails, tiny cupcakes and giant cookies. “Wonderland Dreams allows for a new way of experiencing a painting by becoming part of the art. Everyone who enters into the painted world brings their own unique personality and presence. The exhibit takes on a new tone and voice, reimagining the space as a living, breathing reflection of those who become part of it,” says Meade.

6. Netflix To Open Immersive Store In LA

Netflix pop-up store, LA

As part of its mission to become an all-encompassing entertainment juggernaut, streaming service Neflix has opened a pop-up store at The Grove in Los Angeles. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the temporary shop will sell merch and  “social media-ready experiences” based on its popular shows, including Squid Game, Stranger Things and Bridgerton. Called Netflix at The Grove, the venue promises to give shoppers an “immersive retail experience”. Selling clothes and books to collectibles, the store will also boast “photo-ready vignettes” featuring life-sized versions of characters from its shows, tailor-made for sharing on the Gram.  

In December, a second floor will open offering interactive experiences tied to Netflix’s holiday programming, including Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Slumberland, Enola Holmes and Emily in Paris. “Following the success and excitement from our fans for our immersive experiences around the globe, this felt like the most organic next step to continue our growth and bring Netflix’s most beloved shows together in a completely new way,” said Greg Lombardo, head of live experiences at Netflix. “Giving our fans the opportunity to put themselves in the world of the stories they love is at the heart of what we do.”

For more examples of “More-Than-A-Store” experiential retail, check out our recent post, The Two Futures Of Experiential Retail: More-Than-A-Store & Experience Districts.

7. Hybrid Hotel Concept Comes To London

The Other House, London

The best hotels feel like a home-from-home, which is what The Other House, an eco-focused new concept devised by entrepreneur Naomi Heaton, aims to achieve. As reported by Vingt Sept magazine, The Other House in South Kensington combines quality hotel service with the privacy of apartment living. Rather than rooms, The Other House is formed of 200 “serviced apartments” called Club Flats that provide a home-from-home experience. Guests check in via an app that allows them to control the temperature of their abode, manage their booking and request a room clean. 

The concept is aimed at lovers of “slow travel” who want to tread lightly on the environment during their stay – Club keys are wooden and guests can track their water and energy consumption during their visit. Room interiors pay homage to British craftsmanship – all furniture and furnishings are made within the UK, so expect an abundance of velvet and tweed, quality brass fixtures, rich textures and Arts & Crafts-inspired wallpaper. Guests can store their own drinks at The Keeping Room piano bar, or enjoy playful twists on classic cocktails at The Owl and Monkey bar. A second site is slated to open in Covent Garden in 2024.